Board eyes potential excess school bond funds

The board has not decided what to do about any leftover funds from the Wa-Hi bond, if it passes.

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WALLA WALLA — The Walla Walla School Board plans to hold a special meeting before Dec. 28 to decide what to do with any excess funds from a Walla Walla High School bond should the measure pass in February.

The board held a brief work session Tuesday to hear feedback from community members and leaders of the Wa-Hi bond committee on the matter of potential excess funds.

Craig Sievertsen and Shannon Bergevin, co-chairs of the bond committee, were at the work session and expressed concerns about the potential for board members to use any excess funds rather than return them to taxpayers or pay down debt.

Sievertsen said the matter continues to come up in the public, with many people saying the board’s previous decision to use excess funds from the Edison Elementary bond for other projects as costing them yes votes on the Wa-Hi initiative.

Sievertsen said the board has an opportunity to make it a nonissue. While he personally sees the value of reinvesting dollars into the district, he said the committee simply doesn’t have enough time before the election to make a case for the benefits of using any excess money.

Bergevin spoke about a similar experience with the Walla Walla Valley Chamber of Commerce. Bergevin said the chamber’s board had voted to stay neutral on the Wa-Hi bond because of the uncertainty about excess funds.

Bergevin, who serves on the board, was not present for the vote and did not participate.

The bond language allows the district to use any excess funds for other projects. In this case, it appears any excess funds could go to making improvements at Lincoln High School.

Board members heard that the issue of the excess funds has the potential to cost them a victory Feb. 12, when voters will decide on the overhaul of the high school, which would cost $48 million in local funds with an expected $21.6 million state match.

Board member Cindy Meyer expressed she would be in favor of committing the funds to paying down the debt if it would help the project gain support. But board member Max Carrera said he was firmly against that, calling it a smart business move to allow flexibility with any excess funds. Carrera voted for using $1.6 million left over from the Edison Elementary construction for other district needs in 2010. He defended that decision during Tuesday’s work session, and said he would vote that way again if given the chance.

“I fully support how I voted to spend the excess funds, would vote again to spend the excess funds, and I’ll stand by that until I die,” he said. “I am not and will not support changing the language of the bond.”

The public will have another chance to comment on the matter before a board decision is made, once the meeting is set in the next few days.

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Comments

janrocks says...

Do we really want someone on our school board that is so inflexible that they will stand by a decision until they die.? What if new facts emerge? Sounds like he will spend all the taxpayers money no matter what or how...Wow.... I'm thinking this will cost the district their approval vote...they just lost my "yes"

Posted 19 December 2012, 3:14 p.m. Suggest removal

scampeau says...

Luck has it that Cindy Meyer also has a vote on the board and understands what is at stake here. Cindy gets my vote "YES".

Posted 19 December 2012, 4:01 p.m. Suggest removal

janrocks says...

I was pleased to see that the excess funds will be returned, and that wiser heads on the board prevailed. The bond now has a chance!

Posted 25 January 2013, 5:40 p.m. Suggest removal

Use.Wisdom says...

Max Carrera has studied the issue and understands the bigger picture. He's all about being the best possible steward of tax payer dollars. We need more politicians willing to be vulnerable leaders. Mr. Carrera has my vote.

I'm voting "YES" because we need to remodel Wa-Hi -- excess funds isn't an issue for me.

Posted 19 December 2012, 7:42 p.m. Suggest removal

Doceo says...

Max Carrera is clearly passionate about taking care of the needs of all Walla Walla Public School students. He has a true heart for kids and I understand and respect his decision although publicly painting onself into a corner is probably not good practice. That being said he is one member of the board. The school board does not vote as a block. I suspect other members of the board will vote to return any excess funds to the community. We will know for certain when the board reconvenes to act on the issue.

It would appear that Janrocks most likely never intended to vote "yes" in the first place. Why would a person's vote hinge on the opinion of a single school board member before votes are cast and policy is set? I will watch with interest when the board makes their decision.

Posted 19 December 2012, 8:47 p.m. Suggest removal

janrocks says...

I agree that his statement invoked an emotional response from me. I would like to vote yes for maintenance, classroom improvements, and many other things that are much needed. That said, I think the essential improvements can be done for less than 48 million, and we can't afford that much as a community at this time.

Posted 20 December 2012, 11:58 a.m. Suggest removal

namvet60 says...

I just don't understand people - you have the governor wanting to raise taxes and this new year is expected to bring a rise in taxes and this district wants to throw another expense on the citizens without the realization of what it will do to the economy. If anybody that didn't realize it that this money is coming from the strained accounts of the taxpayers. The taxpayers are on a downhill run to poverty!!

Posted 20 December 2012, 6:17 a.m. Suggest removal

wwguy7 says...

I don't think the issue is whether or not the money is returned to taxpayers via paying down debt or some other means. I think the issue is that the tax payers were not made aware of what was going on with the excess funds. They were not kept abreast of what was going on.

Posted 20 December 2012, 8:46 a.m. Suggest removal

Jo99362 says...

Because of what happened with Edison, I am not voting for Wa-Hi improvements. I would vote "yes" for Lincoln to get a complete remodel because of how much of a turn around that school has had, especially partnering with the Student Health Clinic. They want to help teens, Wa-Hi is about their test scores.

Posted 20 December 2012, 2:36 p.m. Suggest removal

fatherof5 says...

Wa-Hi is about much more than test scores. It is unfair and inaccurate to say otherwise. I believe that it is because of what happened with Edison that the board came out publicly to say what they would do with the funds IF there were extra monies left over. What happened with Edison was a mistake, but it was made by good people who learned from it and are trying to be accountable to the public and to do what's best for kids. Let's not punish kids due to this previous situation. Lincoln really does need an overhaul, as does Wa-Hi.

Posted 20 December 2012, 6:34 p.m. Suggest removal

barracuda says...

Lets pay off some loans first! We already have some schools that have bonds on them... We have a Police station bond.... We have a Fire station bond.... We have a neverending EMS levy...... Property tax increases.... And as of the last few days U.B. we will have more state taxes.... And rumor has it there is discussion of a road/street bond coming as well..... All this on top of the decrease in operating budget By 20% (loss of 20% studants to CP)....... WE HAVE TO STOP this never ending spending....
NO MORE UNTILL WE PAY SOME BILLS!

Posted 20 December 2012, 5:44 p.m. Suggest removal

red_dog_113@yahoo.com says...

The concern should not be who is the "best possible steward of tax payer dollars"; that's what managers do. If a project or organization is on budget and on time, that's success.

But the issue is not a single project. It's about the tax payer who provides the dollars so that elected officials can proclaim themselves good stewards. We support all of those good stewards.

The question is, are they good stewards of tax payers? Do they look at all the taxes we are subject before deciding to add to our burden? Are they concerned about what other agencies and legislative bodies may direct us to pay?

That $68 per $100,000 home value isn't much if that's ***all*** one pays. But we are subject to taxes and fees from all over, and the only person looking out for the individual tax payer is usually the individual tax payer, and increasingly fewer politicians.

Tax payers are not an unlimited resource. Nor do they have a bottomless wallet. The Federal government can print money at will; we have to earn it. Any elected or appointed official who isn't concerned about overtaxing tax payers shouldn't be in that position. Taxpayers need to hold them accountable. This includes the Walla Walla School Board.

That's not to say we shouldn't approve school bonds. If something is broken, it needs to be fixed. There's quite a back log at the schools, and I'm not against paying for that. But pushing back against the very reasonable option of taking some of the burden off of the tax payers is treating them with extreme disrespect.

Today, the board voted 4 to 1 to return excess funds from the (as yet unapproved) WaHi bond, and I thank the 4 ayes for that. That won't stop any national fiscal crisis, but it's a step in the right direction. And a polite nod to the tax payers in the Walla Walla area.

Posted 21 December 2012, 7:45 p.m. Suggest removal

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